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Sam had never seen snow. He highly doubted that this small wish would ever be fulfilled since he had been born and raised in Texas. It was all heat and sunlight.
Which, in his view, made it insanity that the possible one and only town safe for vampires to live in was still in the same heat and sunlight.
The first day that he saw the sun after … well … since coming to Myrnin’s lab was when he was finally alone in it. Myrnin had left on some errand and he had muttered about how he didn’t want to go out and how annoying this was that a respectable person like him shouldn’t be out and about in the daylight. There was also some other stuff that really didn’t make sense in whatever context Samuel had heard after Myrnin slipped down into the tunnels below his lab, presumably using them to go wherever he needed to go. Sam had leaned down, looking into the dark pit that was the trap door and pointed out, “You said that the tunnels around your lab weren’t safe.” He had been a bit confused.
Myrnin had reached up a hand, not even one fourth of the way down the ladder and used the index finger that had come out of the darkness (that wasn’t really darkness for either of them) to prod Sam in the nose. “Dangerous for you. Not for me because I helped build them and know where the bottomless pits are.”
Sam had looked affronted, but took a step away from the trap door. Time alone was time alone. It wasn’t like Myrnin was easy to bunk with. He was, for lack of a better word, clingy. His mood shifted by the hour sometimes and unusually he was a mood that required attention and awareness.
Sam could use the time to stew in his own head.
So, he retreated to the center room of the lab, looking around at the dimly lit surroundings. The lights weren’t even on, but he could still see everything just fine. The best way to describe it was if a human had put on a pair of sunglasses in a well-lit area. He moved around the room, still avoiding touching anything. He didn’t feel like this was a place he was living. It didn’t seem permanent. He was a guest and only a guest.
And said guest made a hesitant beeline for the trap door that went upward. A set of stairs that led to the above ground. Halfway up he leaned on the railing, frowning as he fought down a bought of hunger. A deepening frown on his face, he continued climbing again. He still refused to eat very much, slept very little, and really was just hanging onto the basic facts of living. He was changing his clothing, he thought, pouting. He was still functioning.
He just didn’t want to.
He climbed the stairs slowly, having not been on the stairway for over a week. That was how long ago it was since Lady Grey had descended the stairs and Sam had followed, steps so slow, like he was – not ‘like’ – because he had been wary, had been lost, didn’t know what to do.
And Lady Grey was like him. A vampire.
But different. Because of course she was different. He wouldn’t have followed anyone that was like …
He wasn’t willing to think of that and he’d reached the top of the stairs anyway and a hand pushed the trap door up, shaking as dust tickled at his nose. The room beyond was only a little lighter than the lab below. It seemed to seep through the walls and the roof and Sam looked around, studying it and the room. He … he hadn’t been out when it was day before. And only that one time that he’d entered, when it had been night.
The door was closed, of course. And a bit far away. A small fraction of light filtered under the door and Sam watched it for a second. He’d been given the runaround about what was and was not safe for him. At least, the bits Myrnin had remembered.
He walked around the room a couple of times, looking at the dust that was collecting in the corners of the room. A long time ago, someone had put furniture in the building, but apart from a few dust cloths (ha, for all the good a couple years had done those) over them, everything in the room was unremarkable. It was more of a shack than anything else, really. A house a long time ago, but no one had bothered to make any repairs that weren’t necessary to keep the light out. The stairs, that had once led to a second story, had caved in. There were holes in the roof that seemed to hint that parts of the ceiling had caved in periodically as well, but that had at least been cleared out.
In the end, something he’d hoped would have lasted him … well, some length of time at least … probably only killed about ten minutes.
And that wasn’t nearly time enough.
So, he slowly found himself approaching the door out of here, edging around the sides so none of the creeping light from around the edges would find him. He wanted something to do, something that would allow – well, if he was perfectly honest with himself what he wanted was to open the door, step out into the real world, and find out that nothing had changed.
Yes, because that was going to happen. If he wished hard enough, though he was in some sort of nightmare long enough …
Ah, but, he still needed to know his limits. In everything. Maybe that was why Myrnin only forced him to do things when Samuel was at his limits. Because Sam didn’t know what would happen if he crossed that line. He’d been told the ultimatum for everything, but that didn’t mean he’d ever reached any of them.
Slowly, he reached out a hand and gently rested it on the doorknob. His fingers tingled as they passed through the thinnest sliver of filtered sunlight, but he wasn’t sure if it was because of what he was or if he was only imagining it because he was nervous. And hand shouldn’t be too bad, right? He wanted out, wanted to walk around, he didn’t want to be trapped here.
And he turned the knob, pulled the door open just a little, and warm Texas sunlight fell in.
One thing that Sam had noticed since all this began. He didn’t really feel hot anymore. Even in the middle of the day. Or what he assumed was day. It was hard to tell, because they we underground, which might also have affected how he felt about his surroundings. Hot and cold didn’t descend into several feet of rock.
This was the first time he’d actually felt heat for a very long time. It would all have to be slowed down, much later, to fully examine what happened and how, but the steps were as follows.
Sam cracked the door open a bit and might have opened it more had the less than six-inch patch of sunlight on his arm not heat up. He watched his skin go red in what was less than a second and by the time he’d registered the need to pull back it had already started to smoke.
He slammed the door, stumbling backward and sat in a dust and cloth covered seat, his arm cradled in front of him. He was bent over it and it hurt! His shoulders were hunched and eyes were squinted. It wasn’t like that time when he’d first met Lady Grey. That had been the last time he had experienced pain. Teeth he hardly knew had formed stabbing down throw his gums to reveal a set of fangs behind his normal, human canines. That had hurt, he wouldn’t deny that. But it hadn’t hurt for long. But now, it hurt very, very much, even though the pain ebbed away slowly. Much more so than before. And if it was possibly, by the time it had faded to just a dull throb, he was even more hungry than he had been when he had first come up here.
A pale finger stroked over the burned flesh, shuddering both at the feeling and the thrill of pain that ran over the spot. At least that was one thing he could feel correctly. Pain.
His shoulders pulled further inward onto himself, a ball of distress ranting in his head. Legs came up to his chest and fingers wiggled under an arm until he could lean against the armrest without falling over and in a position that he didn’t think would make the chair collapse under his not so hefty weight. He could feel the corners of his eyes stinging, but didn’t cry. He didn’t have the blood to spare. As sick of a thought as that was.
Slowly, his arm faded to an angry red, but it no longer looked burned. Sam really didn’t need to see the poof to know that it had happened. He couldn’t go outside. He wasn’t going to be able to stand under the sun again for a very, very long time. Even Myrnin and Lady Grey could only just survive out there without covering, though they went out with those many layers anyway. And how old were they? In their hundreds, maybe older? Would he, Sam, really have to remain under an over-hanging roof as long as they had before he could go out?
That didn’t seem like a life he could deal with.
He didn’t hear the shift of cloth of the feeling of someone else in the room for a long time. Only when he looked up a bit did he see the loaning figure of Myrnin above him. His arms were braced on the back of the chair and he went back and forth between looking down at Sam and straight ahead, back toward the door.
Sam didn’t know how the older vampire had gotten there. Maybe he’d never really left. Maybe he’d just been lucky and came back at the right – or wrong, since Sam wasn’t sure how to look at this – moment. Or maybe he’d somehow, however unlikely, gained some sixth-sense to know that Sam was in pain.
“There are things about this life,” Myrnin murmured ever so quietly. “That I wouldn’t relinquish for the world, Sam. Even if offered. If someone came to me and gave me it all back. If they gave me my pick of time period to be in, of place on Earth, and gave me the maximum of a human lifespan, I wouldn’t take it.” And then he looked down again, one hand coming down to ruffle Sam’s always mussed hair. Sam didn’t say anything. “Please hold out a bit for this old man, Samuel. I promise things will get better.”
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